Information for refugees and asylum seekers

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Anyone granted refugee status has the same right to education and training as an Irish citizen. People given leave-to-remain in the State normally have the same access, though this is not protected in law.

Preschool: Children of preschool age have access to preschool education on the same basis as Irish children under the Early Childhood Care Scheme (ECCE).

Primary and secondary: All children must stay in school until 16. On completing primary education, they transfer to secondary level where they sit Junior Certificate exams after three years. Students can continue on to the Leaving Certificate exam which takes a further two to three years. Resources for non-English speaking children are normally provided.

Youthreach: Youthreach is a Department of Education and Skills official education, training and work experience programme for early school leavers aged 15 – 20.

Adults: Adults are entitled to free English language and literacy classes (these are available in your local Education and Training Board (ETB), and from a number of organisations, e.g. Failte Isteach). Adults are entitled to free, approved, Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses under the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS).

Third-level: Refugees and those with leave-to-remain are entitled to free third-level education if they have lived in Ireland for three years or more. They may also qualify for maintenance grants, scholarships or Access courses, e.g. the University of Sanctuary Scholarships specifically offered to  asylum seekers and refugees.

Further information: 

Medical services

In Ireland, if a person/family’s income is below a certain level,

they may be entitled to a Medical Card. If their income is above this, they may still be entitled to a Doctor’s (GP) Visit Card. To access health services, you must register with a doctor in the local area. If you qualify for a medical card, you will need to check if the doctor is accepting new patients. You can register for medical card via the GP or by way of an online/written application. Your medical card will be reviewed every year. The HSE will send you a review form in the post or a letter asking you to renew online.

Further information:

Social Protection Payments

There are many payments available, and each has separate qualifying rules. Payments include support for unemployment, education, illness/disability, single parent families and low-income households. Parents or guardians of children under the age of 18 are entitled to a monthly payment known as Child Benefit regardless of their circumstances. While waiting for a decision on your application for a payment, you can apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance. There are also a number of services available through the Community Welfare Officer such as an Exceptional Needs Payments.

Further information: 

Useful links

Links to many sites and organisations which may be of interest to refugees and those granted leave to remain in Ireland are listed below. The Citizens Information Board website is particularly useful. It has extensive information on public services and your general rights and entitlements.

Further information:

Phone Service: 0761 07 4000, Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm.

Call-in service: You can call in to a centre (see their website for one near you), but having an appointment is advised. 

UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees):

IOM (International Organization for Migration):

TIC (The Integration Centre):

Crosscare Migrant Project:

Irish Refugee Council:

New Communities Partnership (NCP):

FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres):

NASC (immigrant support centre):

Doras Luimni:

AKIDWA (network of African and migrant women):

Immigrant Council of Ireland:


Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI):

Volunteer Ireland:

Citizen’s Information:

Department of Justice & Equality:

Irish Naturalisation & Immigration Service (INIS):

Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC):

Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB):

Department of Social Protection:

Reception & Integration Agency (RIA):

Refugee Legal Service (RLS):

Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT):